How to Learn From the Ice Bucket Challenge and Make Social Media Work for Your Cause
The astonishing success of the Ice Bucket Challenge (#icebucketchallenge) is clearly rocking the nonprofit world. On Aug. 26, the ALS Association reported raising $88.5 million from existing donors and 1.9 million new donors. Amazing.
Who could have predicted that a social-media phenomenon could have swept the country so quickly and yielded such bounty? (Probably my millennial friends, that's who!)
Your board and executive leaders just might be looking to you and your team to pull off your own ice bucket challenge.
So let's turn this into a teachable moment and help everyone understand how social media actually works. What makes social media successful — or not?
What made the Ice Bucket Challenge so successful?
There were a few key factors of the challenge that all fell together perfectly to give it zing, appeal, momentum and energy.
1. It was funny and playful, even goofy
Ask your leaders: Are we willing to be playful and goofy? You need to seriously think about this question! I have seen many a cool and quirky idea get watered down by nervous, conservative leaders.
We know for a fact that whacky and goofy fundraisers work. Check out how a small symphony orchestra created a hilarious and successful Facebook campaign!
Takeaway: If you want to break out on social media, be willing to play around with surprise, delight and even goofiness.
2. Young people cooked it up
OK, here's a toast to the young folks! Generally younger people are more creative — and comfortable — on the social platforms than us boomers.
The young folks understand social media. As far as I can see, they can nail the tone and the offbeat playfulness that makes something catch on.
Takeaway: Are you willing to empower some younger people to develop offbeat ideas for you? And are you wiling to let them run with it? Or are you going to want to water it down?
3. Celebrities joined the cause
For something to really go viral, it takes some well-known advocates who already have lots of followers and media attention. These social kingpins can catapult your message to the stratosphere.
So who promotes your cause really matters.
Takeaway: What celebrities in your community can you reach for your cause?
Maybe it's just your mayor plus two former mayors, (I'm thinking Three Tenors!) doing some stunt together.
How about the head of your chamber of commerce together with a ballet dancer dancing together?
Or your local TV anchorwoman doing something silly for you?
4. Person to person, people called out individuals to join in
To me this is the most important aspect of the Ice Bucket Challenge's success: People called out each other by NAME to join.
It is a person-to-person-to-person connector. I predict that we'll see more of individuals calling out someone specifically to join in.
A general call to action has hardly any power compared to asking people individually.
Takeaway: What can you set up that can go from person to person to person?
5. People were empowered to actually DO something
I often worry about huge issues like climate change or world hunger, but I don't know what action to take to help other than to give a bit of money.
I'd love take a specific action that I knew would help. Wouldn't you?
Takeaway: Can you call out your community members to do one specific thing?
Here are some quick ideas:
- Film themselves picking up the grossest litter they can find?
- Holding a frog? Naming their frogs? (How about a frog naming contest?)
- Trying to do a big ballet move like a grand jete or pirouette? (I see a goofy dancing contest!)
- Bringing a hot meal to someone's grandmother and taking a selfie? Posting the selfie? (Whose grandmother have you helped today theme?)
- Reading your very special childhood book to a kid?
- Packing food into a poor kid's backpack?
- Bringing a kid a bike for a gift? Or a warm coat? Filming the child's reaction?
- Kissing your mother or someone's mother for Mother's Day?
- Hugging your neighbor?
- Hugging your favorite tree? Naming your favorite tree? Writing a sonnet about your favorite tree?
I'm just brainstorming here — to encourage you to come up with real ideas for your own cause. Just be sure there is a strong element of fun and play for it to catch on.
The possibilities are there. You can bring new attention, donors and cash to your cause — if you are playful, empowering, and you make it fun and social!